At 4:18PM EST on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the Moon, taking mankind to the greatest frontier he has reached thus far—the surface of another world. It was an achievement that has been unmatched in the intervening 45 years, and may stand for still another generation or more.
After nearly a decade of feverish scientific advancements, engineering miracles, and stunning feats of human courage, the Apollo program brought to fruition the dream of President Kennedy—landing a man on the moon and safely returning him home to the Earth. On that day the entire world watched transfixed by the hazy black and white images beaming back from a quarter million miles away as humanity stepped out of its cradle and into the cosmos and a future bright with seemingly unbounded hope and possibilities.
Yet, here we are 45 years later on a planet racked by a rapidly changing climate, still gripped by our addiction to fossil fuels, with war and famine and disease ravaging our species in every corner of the globe. Rather than dream of other worlds, we instead isolate ourselves behind glowing screens, entertain ourselves with an endless stream of garbage, and scream at each other across shiny cable newsroom desks. Where is the wonder? When did we stop reaching? How did we lose our grip on the stars?
I believe the future of manned space flight and the next frontier of space exploration will be driven by entrepreneurs who dream of dusty footprints in the sand, and towering white rockets in the dark. Men like Elon Musk are setting a vision that used to belong to nations, but now is the rallying call to a generation of engineers, computer scientists, machinists, and laborers. These men and women are building the spacecraft and laying the foundation for our future home on the moon, the asteroids, Mars, and beyond.
We must support their efforts by promoting STEM in our elementary and high schools, and encouraging our young men and women to aspire to something more than just a paycheck. Each of us should lay in the grass and stare up at the night sky. Perhaps a collective dream of our grandchildren or great-grandchildren standing at the crest of a red dune in the distant light of a new dawn will propel us to new heights, and let us once again hold the stars in our hands.
Please share your thoughts on the future of space exploration.